I Didn’t Know “Squat” About Getting in Shape

In Healthy Living by Susan2 Comments

Playground Jumps

Jumping at the local school's playground has added tremendous leg strength.

Gentle cycling is more fun when you’re really fit. When I told people we were planning a trip to cycle eight days and carry all our gear, I repeatedly heard, “You must be in really great shape.” All you had to do was look at me and see that wasn’t true. I was carrying 20 extra pounds. There wasn’t a muscle in sight. Jamie wasn’t worried about strength but was particularly motivated to lose the weight he’d be carrying in his panniers. That combination was incentive enough for both of us to set some fitness and health goals. Fortunately, we had six months. In that time we lost an equal amount of weight, relative to our size, while finding muscles we hadn’t used in years.

Where to Start

We’d been gym members for years. Members who actually showed up regularly in the months that don’t start with Jan. Jamie would cycle. But that’s all he would do. I worked hard in a group class and alternated between Ride, Jazzercise, Step or Yoga. Then we met with a trainer. The trainer’s personal assessment was eye opening. The good news was that for a non-athlete, I had great flexibility (thank you, yoga). I knew my balance and overall body strength needed a make-over. When the trainer watched me do a squat, he said my gluts were not firing. I thought. ‘What the heck?” That sent me down my usual path: research. There’s probably nothing that motivates me more than to suggest a topic of interest that I know nothing about.
Playground pull ups

We use playground equipment at nearby schools and parks for improvised workouts.

And I knew nothing about sport physiology. I had spent my life avoiding work-outs that included squats, pushups and weight training because they are simply uncomfortable. Jamie resisted going to the classes that required complex moves and instead stuck with the simple, repetitive motions of cycling. After learning about the benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT), we were ready to move out of our comfort zone. At our gym we found a mixed martial arts workout that employs many of these HIIT concepts. We also added free weights for power and began doing routines that often included over 100 squats. The daily topic of conversation in those first few months was how much we hurt. We set a goal to exercise six days a week. Prior to this year we averaged two to three days per week. Those extra days make an enormous difference.

Lovely Surprises

I kid you not, those first couple of months were hard. Work schedules made it easy to miss workouts. Injuries happened. That’s when a lot of people give up. Don’t be one of those people, we told each other. Then, one day, I was surprised at how I could do the moves without agony. Boxing and kicks. Run. Fast feet. Sprawls with six pushups (from my toes!). More of the same. More of the same. Throw in sledgehammers, tire jumping, more sprawls, mountain climbs, lunges and wrap it all up with a few dozen squats. Never, ever give up. That’s a routine. And I can do it. I read that a physician can tell how close you are to death just by how you stand up after sitting on the floor. After just a few months of this new routine, my doctor won't be putting me on that short list.

Standing Tall

Focusing on high intensity full body interval training opened my eyes. After all the years of light aerobics, I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t be able to build muscle. I was too old, I didn’t have the right genes, whatever. I’m here to say that self-talk was limiting. Prior to this renewed workout plan, I had the usual age-related skeletal aches of my hips and lower back. Jamie fractured a vertebrae in high school and has lived with back pain most of his life. Both of us feel better and stand taller than we have in decades.

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Susan Carey GentleCycyle Writer

Susan Carey retired in 2017 after a long business career most recently in animal welfare leadership.  She writes about her experiences as a recent retiree living in Spain.  Susan lives in Valencia, Spain with her husband, Jamie, and  the senior pets they brought with them from the United States.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for the inspiration! I keep slacking, riding my bicycle here and there, trying classes here and there, but it’s so hard to find the motivation and keep it.

    1. Hi Susan, You are welcome. We are happy you found our page.

      Our regular exercise routine was disrupted for months when we moved to Valencia. We were so self-conscious working out in the park at first. Now our morning workout is a regular part of our day again. We walk a lot more than we did in the States. Maybe because Valencia is the most pedestrian friendly places we’ve ever lived, maybe because now that we are retired we have a lot more time to walk. If you find a physical activity that you enjoy doing, then the only motivation you need is the fun of moving. I have to say, it’s much easier away from the car-oriented United States.

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